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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 22, 2019


at the presscon of PAN DE SALAWAL,from left: producer Kevin Griffo of Urbanflix, Soliman Cruz, Director Che Espiritu, Bodjie Pascua, child star Miel Espinoza, Anna Luna


at the presscon

“PAN DE SALAWAL” is one of the big winners in Cinemalaya Filmfest last year. It bagged the best director award for first time director Che Espiritu, the Special Jury Prize, best music for Len Calvo and special jury acting awards for child stars Miel Espinoza and JM Salvado. The title comes from pandesal (the lead character, Sal, is a baker played by Bodjie Pascua) and salawal (undies that Miel as Aguy wants to put around her head like a hat.)

The movie will now finally have its commercial nationwide release starting tomorrow, July 24, as released by Solar Pictures. Miel as Aguy is a mysterious streetkid-drifter who has a magical healing power to heal various ailments by inflicting pain on her patients. In the film, she succeeds in making a stroke-victim to walk again, cure a barber’s hand tremors, heal a man’s tumor, among others. But first, she has to hurt them first by slapping or punching or pinching them.

This is how the film unravels its charm and magical realism, set in a depressed community by the railroad tracks. Miel meets Bodjie who has lost his will to live as he is suffering from kidney trouble and undergoes dialysis. They become good friends but strangely, Miel cannot cure Bodjie of his ailment.

Miel first appeared in the indie films “Pitong Kabang Palay” and “Patay na si Hesus” when she was 6 years old. She then became a “suki” in “Maalaala Mo Kaya” and has appeared in a total of seven episodes. She was also seen in Regal’s “Elise” this year playing a big role with Enchong Dee and she has completed a movie for a Japanese film company,  “Sekaîchi oishî mizu”, with “The Tears of Malumpati” as its English title. She’s now in the cast of Star Cinema’s zombie-horror flick, “Block Z”.
“Pan de Salawal” is produced by Herb Kimble and Matthew Grant Godbey of the Los Angeles-based company CineFocus Productions and Kevin Griffo of Urbanflix. They all liked the project when Che’s script was presented to them. The supporting cast includes Madeleine Nicolas, Soliman Cruz,  Ruby Ruiz, Anna Luna, Enzo Aguila and Felix Roco.

Director Che Espiritu says the film is about miracles and it’s a miracle in itself that the film got made. She adds that the character of Sal is based on her own dad who had kidney problems in 2011, the year when she first envisioned the concept then made it into a short film. The eldest of five kids, her parents are both doctors so she took up pre-med in college but her heart is in filmmaking as she grew up watching local films, so she shifted to this course in UP.

She got her masters in filmmaking at the Florida State College of Motion Picture and Arts at Tallahassee where she worked for a while as cinematographer. She returned here in 2016 then submitted her script to Cinemalaya. That she won as Cinemalaya best director last year is because she has deftly combined the film’s comic elements with the cloying dramatic moments and made it all so charming.

But how come it took one year before they gave it a wider release when other entries in her Cinemalaya batch, like “Liway” and “ML”, got released earlier? “My producers kasi prioritized muna joining various film festivals abroad but we were not lucky to be accepted. E, aabutan na namin yung bagong batch ng Cinemalaya next month, so we’re finally releasing it now and it’s good Solar Pictures are supporting us.”

How did she get Miel to play Aguy? “40 girls auditioned for the role and the producers wanted to get another actress pero ipinaglaban ko si Miel. I saw her sa ‘Patay na si Hesus’ and we called her to audition. I like her as she’s an intelligent child actress who can follow directions easily.”

How did she feel when her film that won big in Cinemalaya was ignored by other award-giving bodies, like “Liway” that won best picture in the Eddys and “Mamang” that won best director in the Urian?

“Kanya-kanya naman ng standards ang award-giving bodies, so okay lang. I am really happy that they recognized the other entries in our batch. I’m just hoping viewers would support ‘Pan de Salawal’ now that we’re making it available to them in theaters nationwide.”